08/05/2011 4:25PM

Emerald Downs juvenile stakes attract Chu and I, Exclusive Diva

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AUBURN, Wash. – Chu and I and Exclusive Diva headline a stakes doubleheader for 2-year-olds Sunday at Emerald Downs. Chu and I, unbeaten in two starts, is the one to beat in the Premio Esmeralda for colts and geldings, while Exclusive Diva, an emphatic maiden winner in her only start, will be a prohibitive favorite in the Angie C for fillies. Both races are at six furlongs and carry a $50,000 purse.

Chu and I followed a six-length victory in a $25,000 maiden claimer with a 5 1/4-length victory in the restricted Strong Ruler Stakes on July 4. But while the Jim Penney trainee has been nothing short of dominant, he’ll face a sterner test in the season’s first open stakes for 2-year-olds. Chu and I defeated four horses in the Strong Ruler, and only one of the vanquished, runner-up Wild Wings, will try him again in the Premio Esmeralda. The challenge Sunday will be to deal with stakes newcomers such as D’honorable One and Silver Boxcar, each coming off a smashing maiden victory.

As usual in a stakes sprint for 2-year-olds, there is speed up and down the seven-horse field. Chu and I has been on or near the lead in both of his starts, Silver Boxcar and Italian Boy both went gate to wire in their most recent start, and Gold Surge, Chu and I’s stablemate, has a quick turn of foot. With a hot pace all but guaranteed, the race could set up nicely for D’honorable One, who moved readily to the front in his last start after tracking the leaders through the opening three furlongs. D’honorable One was assigned a 75 Beyer Speed Figure, the fastest race by a 2-year-old at the meeting.

Only five horses were entered to face Exclusive Diva in the Angie C. A daughter of Bernardini from the stakes-winning mare Puxa Saco, Exclusive Diva is bred to be a good one, and her initial effort – a front-running 3 1/2-length victory on July 9 – stamped her as the leader in a division that is just beginning to sort itself out. If the race unfolds as expected, Exclusive Diva will vie with Lady Dakota for the early lead and then try to hold off late-runners Royal Moses and Talk to My Lawyer in the final furlong. Royal Moses rallied strongly to finish second in the restricted Knights Choice Stakes on July 4 in her career debut. Talk to My Lawyer was a fast-closing second behind Exclusive Diva in her only start.